Following a 4-2 second-round loss to Ole Miss on Thursday in the SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament, No. 35 Tennessee (18-11) now turns its attention to the NCAA Tournament.
Seeding for the Lady Vols will be announced beginning on May 1, when the tournament field is set. Head coach Alison Ojeda is confident her team will be included in the bracket when it is released, feeling that the team has done enough to make the tournament.
However, that confidence won’t deter the Lady Vols’ preparation plans coming off of a loss.
Tennessee, which played host to the SEC Tournament at Barksdale Stadium last week, went 1-1, defeating Alabama 4-1 in the opening round before losing to Ole Miss in the second.
“(Ole Miss) fought really hard,” sophomore Gabby Shuck said. “They knew our strengths, our weaknesses. We knew they were going to come out fighting.”
The upcoming NCAA Tournament will mark the 26th appearance since 1989 for the Tennessee program, which currently holds a 32-25 record overall in tournament play.
Only once since 1995 have the Lady Vols not made an appearance (2015), but they hope to put together a strong run through the tournament and possibly reach the Final Four for the first time since 2002.
Last season, Tennessee defeated Winthrop, 4-1, in the first round before being eliminated in the second round by No. 15 Duke by the same score.
The Lady Vols have only advanced past the Round of 16 nine times previously but hope to make it 10 in the upcoming weeks.
In her second season at the helm, head coach Alison Ojeda, who had previously served as an assistant coach on the Tennessee staff, is hoping to see Tennessee notch back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in her first two years.
Ojeda believes the team’s success in year two has been due to the players’ ability to show up and work hard in every aspect of the game — something they’ll need to do to make a deep run in the NCAAs.
“Our team has been working hard,” Ojeda said. “We’ve been so close all year from jumping into that next level. If we want to get where we want to go, literally every single player needs to show up every single play.”
That mentality is one the players have adopted as they go forward and get set to put the SEC Tournament loss behind them.
“We’re just going to have to come out and bring our ‘A’ game,” Shuck said. “Anything can happen. We need to believe in ourselves. We’ve put in a lot of hard work.”
While the next opponent has not yet been set for Tennessee, Ojeda plans for her team to continue preparing just like it has for any other opponent this season.
“We’ll (do) everything we possibly can to come out on top,” Ojeda said. “We’ll compete our tales off against them and put ourselves in (the) situation to come out on top.”
The 16 host sites for the NCAA Tournament are yet to be announced, but the first and second rounds will begin on May 11 and take place through May 12.